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Captive: History vs. Hollywood

Starring David Oyelowo, Kate Mara, Michael Kenneth Williams | based on the book "Unlikely Angel" by Ashley Smith

Kate Mara
Born: February 27, 1983
Bedford, New York, USA
Ashley Smith
Born: August 1, 1978
Birthplace: Augusta, Georgia, USA
David Oyelowo
Born: April 1, 1976
Oxford, England, UK
Brian Nichols
Born: December 10, 1971
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Elle Graham
Paige Smith
Born: May 10, 1999
Birthplace: Augusta, Georgia, USA
Mimi Rogers
Born: January 27, 1956
Coral Gables, Florida, USA
Kim Rogers
Born: June 14, 1954
Birthplace: Augusta, Georgia, USA
I definitely thought I was gonna die, and you know, at that point in my life I thought it was something that I deserved. I had reached out to God for help, and then when he began to help me I would push him away. ... And when I was faced with that gun in my face, I just thought, you know what, so be it. -Ashley Smith, 2015, Captive Movie Featurette

Questioning the Story:

How many people did Brian Nichols murder?

Brian Nichols murdered four people on March 11, 2005. After overpowering Cynthia Hall, a sheriff's deputy who was guarding him at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Nichols struck her, stole her keys, and retrieved her gun from a lock box. The blow sent her into a coma (she survived). Some have argued that the stark contrast between the 51-year-old, 5-foot-2 female deputy and the 33-year-old, 6-foot tall suspect she was assigned to guard was a key factor in what allowed him to get her gun, pointing to the tragedy as a downside of affirmative action.

The Captive movie true story confirms that Nichols then made his way into the courtroom where he shot dead Judge Rowland Barnes (64) and court reporter Julie Brandau (46). As he fled the courthouse, he shot Sergeant Hoyt Teasley (43) and then carjacked several vehicles during his escape. Later that day, Nichols shot dead ICE Agent David G. Wilhelm (40) in his home and stole some of his belongings, including his gun and pickup truck.

The real Brian Nichols (left), who had been on trial for rape, murdered four people before taking Ashley Smith hostage. David Oyelowo (right) recreates the killing spree as Nichols in the movie.

Did Ashley Smith receive the book from a woman at her support group meeting?

No. Unlike the movie, the real Ashley Smith did not receive Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life, from a woman in her addiction recovery group. The Captive true story reveals that she picked up a free copy of the book on February 7, 2005 while attending her Aunt Kim's church. The church was planning to start a Purpose Driven Life study and was giving away copies of the book to anybody in the congregation who wanted one. All that Ashley had in her pocket was a dollar bill that she had rolled up to snort ice. She put that in the offering in an attempt to turn her drugs over to God. Ashley's aunt, Kim Rogers, was a devout Christian who cared for Ashley's daughter while she tried to get clean and back on her feet. -Unlikely Angel

Did Ashley really throw the book in the trash, only to have the woman return it to her?

No, as stated above, Ashley voluntarily picked up a free copy of The Purpose Driven Life while at her Aunt Kim's church. No one gave her the book and she never tried to throw it away.

Did Brian Nichols really bound Ashley's wrists together with tape?

Yes, Like in the movie, Brian Nichols took Ashley into the bathroom. He taped her wrists together by wrapping masking tape around them. In real life, he also used an extension cord to tie her up and wrapped a curtain around her waist. "I was very scared then," Ashley told Matt Lauer during a 2005 Today Show interview. "I thought, he's gonna hurt me. When he came in with the tape and the electrical cord, I thought initially he was gonna tape me with the tape, or bound me with the tape, and strangle me with the cord."

Did Ashley really think Brian Nichols made her get into the bathtub to kill her?

Yes. Like in the Captive movie, when Nichols told her to get into the bathtub, she feared it was because he planned on killing her where there would be less mess. -Full Circle Ashley Smith Interview

How long did Brian Nichols hold Ashley Smith hostage?

Brian Nichols held Ashley Smith hostage for seven hours. After murdering four people during and after his escape from the Fulton County Courthouse on the morning of March 11, 2005, Brian Nichols approached Ashley in Duluth, Georgia as she started to put the key in her apartment door at around 2:30 a.m., March 12. She was just getting back from buying some cigarettes at a local convenience store. He put a gun in her side and forced his way into her apartment, where he held her hostage for seven hours. During that time, she told him about her daughter, her battle with addiction, and the death of her husband. She also read from Pastor Rick Warren's 1997 book The Purpose Driven Life, encouraging him to consider how God could use him if he surrendered. After letting Ashley go so she could make a 10 a.m. visit with her daughter, she called 911. A SWAT team converged on the apartment and Nichols surrendered roughly an hour and a half later at 11:24 a.m.

Kate Mara and Elle Graham in the movie (left) and Ashley Smith with her daughter Paige in real life (right).

Did Brian Nichols really escape to see his infant son?

Yes, it is believed that this was the motive behind his rampage. Three days prior to escaping, the real Brian Nichols learned that his son had been born. Sonya Meredith, the mother of the baby, told The Associated Press, "I do know that he wanted to be with the baby. He did speak about it all the time." Unlike what is seen in the Captive movie, we found no evidence that Nichols ever got a glimpse of his son through a window while he was on the run. Ashley Smith did encourage Nichols to be a man and do the right thing for his son by surrendering and surviving the ordeal (Unlikely Angel).

Did Ashley Smith really give Brian Nichols meth to gain his trust?

Yes. While she was bound with an extension cord and masking tape in her bathroom, her captor inquired as to whether she had any pot. She told him she didn't but that she had some ice (crystal meth) instead. He unbound her and she retrieved the crystals from a pouch that she kept hidden beneath the fold of her comforter. On the bathroom counter, she prepared three lines for him to snort. Nichols asked her if she wanted to join him, but she told him no and explained how drugs had destroyed her life. "If I did die, I wasn't going to Heaven and say, 'Oh, excuse me, God. Let me wipe my nose because I just did some drugs before I got here'," Smith said. She says that the drugs seemed to calm Nichols down to the point that he was exhibiting remorse for the killings. -Savannah Morning News

Did Ashley Smith really have a husband who died in a fight?

Yes. Daniel "Mack" Smith, Ashley's volatile first husband and the father of her daughter Paige, died in her arms in August of 2001 after being stabbed in the heart during a brawl with former friends. According to the Captive true story, the altercation took place outside the Applecross Apartments in Martinez, an Augusta, Georgia suburb. In Ashley's book, Unlikely Angel, she says that Daniel heard that someone he knew had called him a "narc," and he went to the apartment complex because he wanted to "slap him around" a bit.

In 2006, 24-year-old Corey Blaine Coggins was convicted in Daniel's stabbing. Coggins was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Coggins' conviction was the result of the unsolved case being reopened following the attention Ashley received for her role in Brian Nichols' surrender. -The Augusta Chronicle

Ashley's first husband, Daniel (left), died in her arms following a 2001 stabbing.

When did Ashley start using drugs?

Ashley started using drugs in high school and then kept using them with her husband, Daniel "Mack" Smith. Following his death, her life fell into a downward spiral. She had been in a mental hospital and she failed out of a drug rehabilitation program twice. Her addiction became such a problem that she signed over custody of her daughter Paige to her aunt, Kim Rogers. She got pregnant again while on methamphetamines but miscarried at five weeks. The addiction resulted in careless acts, including an irrational attempt to get closer to God by letting go of the steering wheel of her car, which then crashed into a ditch, leaving her with two broken arms, three broken ribs, and a severed pancreas. -Savannah Morning News

Did Ashley Smith use drugs the day before Brian Nichols took her hostage?

Yes, Ashley says that she used drugs the night before Nichols took her hostage, reasoning that she needed a pick-me-up while moving into her new apartment. -Savannah Morning News

Did Brian Nichols really asked Ashley to read The Purpose Driven Life to him?

Not exactly. In the Captive movie, David Oyelowo's character asks Ashley (Kate Mara) to read aloud to him some of the book she is reading. The Captive true story reveals that the real Brian Nichols wasn't quite as eager to hear the book. In reality, it was Ashley who asked Nichols if he wanted to hear her read it. He replied, "Sure, you can read it aloud." -Unlikely Angel

"I went and I got The Purpose Driven Life and I asked him if I could read," says Ashley, "and so I guess God just began to bring things to my mind and to my heart to kind of share with him at that moment." (Featurette: The Purpose Behind Captive).

The real Ashley Smith (right) read to Brian Nichols from where she had left off in The Purpose Driven Life, Day 32 (Chapter 32) of the book, titled "Using What God Gave You."

Did Brian Nichols really ask Ashley what she thought he should do?

Yes. "He asked me what I thought he should do. I told him that he should turn himself in," says Ashley. -100 Huntley Street

Did Brian Nichols cause Ashley Smith any physical harm in real life?

No. In Ashley Smith's book, Unlikely Angel, she says that Nichols showed signs of compassion that she didn't expect from someone who just murdered four people, even asking her if the tape he was bounding her with was hurting her. "Those were things again that I was realizing, this has gotta be God. This totally has to be God. Why would somebody that killed four people care if it hurts me." -100 Huntley Street

Why didn't Ashley escape when she was driving in front of Brian, helping him find a place to ditch the truck?

During a Full Circle TV show interview, Ashley told the hosts, "I thought my car would break down, and then he would think that I didn't trust him, and things would look bad, and he might run away, and then come hunt me down later. And I just didn't know what was gonna happen, and so I again trusted God and said, you know, I believe that he was gonna allow me to leave by that point in time. He was gonna let me leave later on that morning to see my little girl, and that's what happened. He did. He let me go see my little girl, and that was the end of all of it."

Did Ashley Smith really quit drugs and turn her life around after her ordeal with Nichols?

Yes. Ashley describes her experience with Nichols as a spiritual awakening. After the ordeal, she became a Christian, wrote a book about her experience, got married again, and began traveling the country speaking to others about her transformation. With regard to drugs, "Those thoughts just don't come anymore," said Ashley, "and it's the strangest thing because I'm like, how can you go one day from not knowing how to stop doing drugs, and you really want to, and then all of a sudden it's just gone?" -Savannah Morning News

Ashley Smith married her second husband, Daniel Robinson, in June 2007. Her daughter Paige is on the left and his daughter Riley is on the right. They reside in Gainesville, Georgia.

How much reward money did Ashley Smith receive?

On March 23, 2005, less than two weeks after she was taken hostage, Ashley Smith received $72,500 in reward money from various agencies, including the United States Marshals Service and the F.B.I., for alerting authorities to Nichols whereabouts after he let her go.

Did Brian Nichols try to stay in touch with Ashley after his surrender?

"He has not, no," says Ashley. "You know, I've prayed about that many, many times. If the Lord wanted me to contact him or whatever, I'm going to be obedient, but I haven't felt that yet. So, I'm just kind of waiting and making sure I hear God clearly." -Full Circle Ashley Smith Interview

Did the real Ashley Smith support the making of the Captive movie?

Yes. In addition to the Captive movie being largely based on Ashley Smith's book Unlikely Angel, actress Kate Mara, who portrays Ashley in the movie, spent several hours visiting the real Ashley and her family at their home. "We had some phenomenal conversations about family, who we are, and where we come from," recalls Ashley. "Watching the movie and seeing her and Elle together, they got the relationship between my daughter and I 100%."

Does the real Ashley feel that the film is accurate?

"There were a couple added scenes," says Ashley. "The first time I watched the film I was like, 'but that didn't happen.' But, as I watched it a third and fourth time I was able to be constructive and sit back, and that's when I began to understand the film process. While this scene was not particularly true, it was added to enhance the story and show how I was feeling emotionally." She adds, "Everything in the movie is pretty dead-on in portraying how everything happened: the emotions I was feeling and the situations as they happened."

Does the real Ashley Smith have a cameo in the movie?

Yes. Ashley and her children spent four days visiting the Captive movie set. "I was on set for the courthouse scene," says Ashley. "My children and I are actually in the courthouse scene. ... It was fun to be there and it was neat to see the passion that everyone had behind it."

Ashley Smith Interviews & Related Captive Movie Videos

Listen to a firsthand account of the Captive true story as the real Ashley Smith discusses the hostage ordeal and how it changed her life.

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